Located in northwest Spain along the Camino de Santiago, León Cathedral (Catedral de Santa María de Regla de León) is a French-style Gothic cathedral built in the 13th century over the ruins of ancient Roman baths.
Intricately carved portals, glorious rose windows, one of the oldest choirs in the country, and beautiful sculptures such as the Virgen de la Esperanza are just a few of the cathedral's many impressive features.
History of León Cathedral
A Christian community is first recorded in León in 254, but no bishop is recorded in Visigothic times. The bishropic of León was established in 860, after King Ordono conquered the city from the Moors. It was subordinate to the diocese of Toledo until 1105.
The present incarnation of León Cathedral was begun by Bishop Martin Fernandez, with funds from King Alfonso the Wise, in 1255 over the ruins of 2nd-century Roman baths. The first recorded master builder was one Simón (from 1261), followed soon after by Enricus or Enrique (d.1277), who was also the master builder at Burgos Cathedral.
The cathedral mostly dates from the 13th century, but not fully completed until the 19th century (when it was also extensively restored) due to periodic problems with funding and structural integrity.
What to See at León Cathedral
Its wide west facade, made of a lovely pale yellow stone, is flanked by two towers and pierced with three exquisitely carved Gothic portals and a large rose window. The south transept also has three carved portals and a rose window.
The north transept adjoins to the 13th- and 14th-century cloister, which has carved capitals, Romanesque and Gothic tombs, and some faded frescoes.
Inside, some 125 medieval stained glass windows illuminate a harmonious, fully French Gothic interior with three aisles, a short transept, a five-bay choir, and an ambulatory with radiating chapels. The effect of the pale stone combined with dazzling rays of sunlight filtering through the windows have given the cathedral the nickname "House of Light."
León Cathedral's choir stalls, among the oldest in Spain, were carved of walnut by Flemish artists in the 15th century. A much-revered statue of the Virgen de la Esperanza, depicting the Virgin Mary when she was pregnant with Jesus, dates from the 13th or 14th century and is displayed in a side chapel off the choir.
The Mai Chapel contains an altarpiece by Nicolás Francés (15th century) and a silver reliquary containing the relics of San Froilán, patron saint of Leon.
The Cathedral Museum (Museo Catedralicio Diocesano de León) houses nearly 1,500 works of art from prehistoric times to the 18th century, including as many as 50 sculptures of the Virgin, a triptych by the School of Antwerp, a 10th-century Mozarabic Bible and numerous manuscripts.
Quick Facts on León Cathedral
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||42.599501° N, 5.566480° W|
|Address:||Plaza de Regla, Leon, Spain|
Jul-Sep: Mon-Sat 8:30am-1:30pm and 4-8pm, Sun 8:30am-2:30pm and 5-8pm
Oct-Jun: Mon-Sat 8:30am-1:30pm and 4-7pm, Sun 8:30am-2:30pm and 5-7pm
Mon-Fri 9:30am-1:30pm and 4-7pm; Sat 9:30am-1:30pm
|Lodging:||View hotels near León Cathedral|
- Bernhard Schütz, Great Cathedrals (Munich: Hirmer Verlag, 2002), 428-30.
- Andy Halpin and Conor Newman, Spain: An Oxford Archaeological Guide (Oxford University Press, 2006), 162-63.
- Cordula Rabe, Camino de Santiago: Way of St. James from the Pyrenees to Santiago (Munich: Bergverlag Rother GmbH, 2007), 124-25.
- Catedral de León (Santa María de Regla) - Frommer's Spain
Map of León Cathedral
Below is a location map and aerial view of León Cathedral. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.